this story originally appeared in the philippine daily inquirer on July 26, 2001.

Do I consider myself a winner? If you consider talent (ahem) and skills, I’ve had my share of triumphs as a student. I was the 50-meter dash champion in high school, for which I got P20 and a blue banner. I was the champion declaimer during Linggo ng Wika. My prize: a Filipino-English dictionary. Count also my being declared as Best Muse during a basketball tournament. (Oh, okay, it was because I was the only muse who showed up.) I likewise won in a fiesta singing contest and got P300. I became the first prize winner too in our college’s English Week Poetry Contest and became P500 richer.

In the beginning

But nothing beats winning contests that hundreds join. My first “official” win was in grade school at St. Scho. My name was picked and the Encyclopedia agents visited our house and sweet-talked my mom into buying a set. Were we lucky or what? Whatever, the thought of being singled out made me feel special.

Being snack junkies, my sisters and I, together with Dad, often go to supermarkets. We join raffles and salivate at the prizes, usually home appliances.

One time, my teacher told me I had won the grand prize, a refrigerator. She had seen my name in the ads. I waited but no letter arrived to inform me I was a winner. But being a kid then, I couldn’t care less. Candies, “Voltes V” and taguan pung were more important to me. Maybe it was someone with the same name or they couldn’t locate me. I wasn’t sure myself if I wrote the correct address on the stub.

Major loot

Recently my friends began to notice how lucky I am. Here is a rundown of the prizes I’ve won and how I did it:

1. A Swatch watch from Cosmopolitan. I wrote Cosmo, thanking them for featuring women with jobs to die for, saying it made me realize how important it was to pursue a job that one truly loved. My sincerity must have impressed them. My letter was chosen letter of the month, and I won a silver Swatch, which I love!

2. P600 for being Food Magazine’s Readers’ Best for February. My creation was a hot and spicy beef chili Mexicali soup. I described how this would perk up my friends’ mood every time we’re feeling blue.

I also made another food entry for my Dad: the chicken fingers he cooks for his apo, Polo, whenever they play together. He won, too. His recipe even landed on the cover with an accompanying picture of them both.

3. Two collector’s item pager from Coke’s “Always on Time” contest. This is where you have to spot the ATM Coke sign in different shows. Even though my friends and I were embarrassed to death getting Coke cans and wrappers from deserted tables (sometimes not) in malls, we were dead set on winning. I sent colorful envelopes and wrote “Pick Me!” and things like that. I put my entries in different drop boxes to improve my chances-all 30 of them. I got a letter informing me I won. But Coke didn’t send me another one when I won again. I only learned about it when a woman whom I met at the Coke office (she herself won a pager) called to inform me that she saw my name again in the newspapers. (What can I say, I’m a friendly gal, giving my phone number away.)

4. George Michael’s double CD from Channel V. I just clicked on their contest page, chose the CD I wanted and submitted my name. Did this three times. When I claimed my CD at a post office in Manila, I had to “donate” P30 for the employee’s merienda. If I didn’t look like a college freshman, I could have been asked P500 for my package.

5. A Nikon Novus camera from MTV. When I was in Subic two summers ago, I saw this girl with her oh-so-tiny camera. I’d have one like that someday, I told myself. So when I saw VJ Sonia Couling hawking a tiny camera for a contest, I immediately e-mailed my entry. I just named the camera and sent a drawing of a skeleton that said, “This could be you waiting for Mr. Right.” I explained that the same thing shouldn’t happen when you are looking for the perfect camera since Nikon has it. Monette Sison, a former editorial assistant of Sunday Inquirer Magazine was the one who e-mailed me that I won. She had seen my name on MTV.

When I claimed my prize from the Nikon dealer in Quezon City, I was required to pose with the manager. When the picture came out, the manager said he must have been the winner because I looked so embarrassed.

When I met MTV’s Sudhanshu Sarronwala, I personally thanked him. Great conversation piece during our interview.

6. Pillow and mug from Channel 2’s “Kaybol.” Every show, they flashed a question and you paged in your answer. The question that day was: “What’s the best japorms on a rainy day?” If you didn’t want to win, you can send very predictable answers like “jacket” or “boots.” Since I belong to the 2 percent of our population whose ideas are out of this world, I answered: “A colorful bathing suit with matching umbrella hat.”

7. P50 for The Most Embarrassing Graduation Experience from Meg Magazine. I related how my high school grad pics were exposed and how my hat was bending sideways in all of the pics that were developed. The prize was inconsequential, but it was fun remembering those funny moments.

Gratitude

Why do I always win? Is it because I have so much time in my hands, my timing is perfect, or I am just darn lucky?

I remember that when I was in fourth grade, I won a mug and bag during the school fair. My teacher told me that was because I was good and she predicted that when I grew up, I would be lucky. Prophetic words indeed.

I really have no secret. I just tell myself that I will win and repeat it incessantly. But not to the point of obsessing or offering dead chickens every full moon. Positive thinking is certainly powerful. I couldn’t care less what statisticians say about the chances of winning being one in a million.

People are sometimes so cynical that they don’t win. They preempt their chances by thinking so negatively.

My family and friends are surprised and excited whenever I win. I’m glad I give them hope which makes them interested in joining contests. My sister won a Fila bag and shirt in a TV contest. Same also with my Dad. My friend Odie won a cell phone from a video rental store.

I have learned that I have a way of weaving words into prize-winning entries. Although I haven’t won a house and lot, a BMW or a trip to Disneyland, I am thankful for my little wins.

My advice: If you have the time, what have you got to lose in trying? There are so many opportunities out there: TV, magazines, newspapers, radio, the Internet. Don’t join all contests and spend hundreds to qualify. Just choose the contest you want. (I have positive vibes for the contests I join.) Let your mind work, get on with your life but pray like anything!

But if I’m so darn lucky, why do I not try the big leagues, like the lotto? I am working on it. But if I do win, forgive me if I don’t write about it.

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